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tv   Nightline  ABC  March 1, 2012 11:35pm-12:00am EST

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tonight on "nightline," bad romance? she's 18. he's 41. and her former teacher. they say it's love. but her mom calls it criminal. undercover granny. our producer's grandmother goes undercover, to expose how health care companies are preying on patients. submitting tens of billions of dollars in fraud a year. >> it's a "nightline" investigation. and cute for a cause. tonight, we're there, as this adorable polar bear cub steals hearts and takes his first steps. could this little guy save a whole species? >> announcer: from the global
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resources of abc news, with terry moran, cynthia mcfadden and bill weir in new york city. this is "nightline." march 1st, 2012. good evening. i'm terry moran. and we begin with a question of love. or crime? a california high school student has left school and moved in with her male, 41-year-old former teacher. she's 18 now. and she and her boyfriend say their relationship is a may-december romance. but her mom claims a crime has occurred here. and she points to some 8,000 text messages, dating to when her daughter was a minor, to prove it. here's abc's cecilia vega. >> reporter: this might look like innocent love for james and jordan. but he's 41. she's 18. and there's another twist. one month ago, he was her high school teacher. are you in love? >> yes. i do love him. i mean, my best friend. i mean, he's more than just a
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lover. >> i would say we're in love, also. i would say i'm in love. i guess i can speak for myself. >> reporter: james and jordan first met when jordan was a high school freshman and he was her business class teacher. >> when i had jordan as a freshman, when she was 15, she wasn't interested in school at all. she failed my class miserably. >> reporter: not the model student? >> not the model student. >> reporter: two years later, he taught her again and said they had a playful relationship. but that it ended there. >> we had a history through her freshman year, that i would tease her about. oh, are you going to fail this one, too? >> reporter: it was only this school year, when jordan was a senior, that things got more intense. it was a field trip where they started to see each other in a different light. >> a four-hour car ride each way. you're going to talk. you're going to sing together. you're going to have fun. you're going to laugh. and i think that's where i may have seen jordan, the real jordan, for the first time. >> reporter: they both deny that
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anything sexual happened before she turned 18. but jordan's mom doesn't buy it. >> he's a master manipulator. he thinks he's above reproach. above the law. >> reporter: she's launched a public campaign against him on facebook, where she posted a letter, saying the 2 exchanged 8,000 text messages, long phone calls and e-mails, when powers was a minor. >> when you're in a authoritative decision as an educator, you don't seduce your student, period. she's still in high school. she still lives at home. she has a curfew. you don't seduce your student. that's not okay. >> reporter: police are now investigating whether or not james and jordan had a sexual relationship while she was a minor. what are investigators looking for? >> they're looking if they stay at a hotel. are there any clerks that saw them. are there friends of this girl that she talked to. the text messages and the content of the text messages. i think they would be looking at all those things.
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witnesses, receipts. they would look to see if money was being spent on this girl. >> reporter: according to your mother, she found an estimated 8,000 text messages between the two of you that date all the way back to the summer. >> no. those were all my text messages together. i texted him over the summer, to say i had him as a teacher for my senior year. that was it. i don't even think he replied. so, there was no calling or texting before i was the age of 18. >> reporter: since going public with their romance, hooker has resigned of his teaching job of 15 years. he plans to file for divorce and left his three kids behind, including a 17-year-old daughter who attends the same school. if your 17-year-old daughter, in a year, decided to start dating one of your former colleagues, and left home and moved in with him, would that be okay? >> i would definitely want to make sure that she has thought things through. i want to make sure, also, that she's happy. and i think following your heart is important. >> reporter: i mean, how would
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you feel if this was your father doing this to your family? >> i would just want the best for him. i don't -- i mean, my father passed away when i was 9. i just want the best. i want him to be happy. >> reporter: it hasn't been easy on jordan, either. she's had to leave home and stop attending classes because of all the attention. why did you leave school? >> just because everybody talking. i just -- i felt like it was the best thing for me at the time. it was pretty crazy. it was pretty, like, like there she is. that's her. i felt like i was being attacked by everybody. >> reporter: even your friends? >> yes. >> reporter: meanwhile, jordan's mother, tammie, continues to vent her anger on facebook. calling her daughter's lover, an arrogant pervert. what do you say to that? >> first of all, tammie powers doesn't know me. she can call me whatever she wants. she also has sent me threatening text messages. she's threatened to kill me. so, i mean there's a lot of
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things that she has accused me of. a lot of things that she has called me. and i haven't reacted. i haven't chosen to allow her to put her campaign together. and she really is trying to smear me. >> reporter: despite the firestorm, james and jordan say they are relishing being together. they now share an apartment in this complex and plan for a long future. someone you see spending a long time with? rest of your life, maybe? >> yeah. >> reporter: how about you? >> pretty much the same. i think we've spent a lot of time talking about what this might look like. and if this was a road we were going to pursue, we really do want to have a future together. >> reporter: they've certainly sacrificed everything for their romance, a decision most can't understand. you've lost your career over this. >> i have. >> reporter: you've lost your wife and children, right now. >> yes. >> reporter: what makes this worth it? >> i think, at some point, you
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take a leap of faith when love is involved. >> reporter: for "nightline," i'm cecilia vega, in modesto, california. >> there will be much more with james hooker and jordan powers, on "good morning america." so, tune in for that. coming up, go, granny, go. an 80-something with a hidden camera, exposes rampant fraud. "nightline" is there. ♪ [ male announcer ] you'd be shocked how much data you use in a month. e-mail, status updates, finding your way, uploading photos, downloading an app, an app, and another app. kilobytes, megabytes, gigabytes... all stacking up until you reach your limit. and what happens if you go over? with sprint, you don't have to worry. only sprint offers truly unlimited data. trouble hearing on the phone? visit
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>> announcer: "nightline," continues from new york city, with terry moran. so, the woman you're about to meet, she's not your typical undercover reporter. she's our producer's 82-year-old grandmother. and she took a hidden camera and
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headed to the doctor's office. and with reports of medicare fraud in the news, what she found might shock you. our chief investigative correspondent, brian ross, joins us now. brian? >> reporter: terry, we newsed hidden cameras and an 82-year-old undercover grandmother, to see firsthand all all that fraud can happen. how a simple trip to the doctor's office, can result in a diagnosis of illnesses that don't exist, and expensive treatments and supplies that are not needed. it's called mcallen, texas. people in the medical profession are getting rich here. the doctor's parking lots are full of luxury cars. and investigators say some doctors fly in on private planes, spend a day or two a week here, and make millions of dollars a year from medicare. >> they're getting rich off of you and me. we have ten of the top physicians who have billed nearly $200 million in one specialty area last year alone. >> reporter: to see how it
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works, we went undercover in mcallen, with an 82-year-old grandma, doris ace, accompanied by her granddaughter, abc producer, megan. like any senior citizen, our undercover grandma represents a potential windfall for home health care coverage. if a doctor will certify the need for home health care and if there's a medicare number to bill. >> with that number, that's the keys to the kingdom. >> reporter: and they've just continued to do it with impunity? >> thus far, that's the case. >> reporter: as we saw, we rented an apartment in mcallen. rigged it with hidden cameras and moved in our grandma and her granddaughter. other than hypertension and some arthritis, doris ace is a healthy woman, who played some golf while in texas. and did a little line dancing at the senior center. >> i'm new here in the area. >> reporter: but it wasn't long before she found a number of so-called recruiters from home health care companies, eager to take advantage of her medicare number.
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>> you need medicare to qualify. and if the doctor approves, as well. >> reporter: including one recruiter, who personally took her to a doctor he chose. >> hi. >> hello. >> how are you doing today? >> fine. >> reporter: the doctor is the gate keeper. without her certification, medicare won't pay for anything. >> you don't have any fevers? chills? chest pains? >> i've really enjoyed good health all my life. can i knock on wood? >> reporter: but the files we got later from the doctor's office, which show a patient in supposedly terrible health. on the patient referral form, signed by the doctor, a certification that our undercover grandma was home-bound. on the medicare health care forms, a description of a patient who needs assistance for all activities. unable to safely leave home unassisted. a diagnosis authorities told us that can hope the door for huge fraud, involving home health care. >> it's worth tens of thousands of dollars a month.
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>> reporter: that's all justified by this diagnosis? >> absolutely. >> reporter: indeed, the very next day, a nurse from the home health care company showed up to treat our undercover grandma for a variety of ailments, including diabetes, which she was not have. and over the course of a month, the home health care company and the doctor billed medicare almost $1,800. >> i wanted to ask you -- the doctor involved, padmini bhadriraju, didn't want to talk about the case when we caught up with her. you diagnosed her with diabetes, which is not true. >> i don't know anything about this. >> reporter: do you make up these diagnosises? >> reporter: the doctor's lawyer admitted there were errors on the health forms. these are serious allegations, ma'am. who said someone other than the doctor, he did not say who, put in the bogus diagnosis, which, of course leads to the question, why didn't the doctor question, if someone was falsifying her diagnosis on the documents?
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>> our medicare system is an honor system. and there's not much honor left in the system when you see things like this. >> reporter: the inspector-general's office told us today it ease now opened its own investigation in what happened in our case. it's opened a broad crackdown of dozens of other doctors and companies in mcallen. as for the $1,800 billed by our grandma, abc news will reimburse the government for the full amount paid for treatment that was not needed. terry? >> thanks, brian. that was great work by our undercover grandmother there. and on an important issue. coming up next, well, this adorable polar bear cub is crawling into hearts worldwide, as his species crawls for its life. so, what can this little guy do to help?
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now, a great cause in a little package. an absolutely irresistible polar bear cub is lighting up the internet, becoming an instant celebrity in the process. but he's more than just cute, as
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siku takes his first steps, captured by our cameras. he's taking a giant leap forward for polar bears everywhere. can this little guy save his whole species? abc's jeffrey kofman has more. >> reporter: meet siku, the unbearably cute polar bear. he may look like a stuffed animal. but he is very much alive. and crawling like mad. watch this. siku's a little wobbly. but so ready to stand on his own four feet. with siku around the clock, is frank vigh-larsen, director of the scandinavian wildlife park here. >> he would be looking for his mother. this is the stage where he would start to learn what the world is all about. but another day or two and he'll be running all over the place. >> reporter: these grainy images show the day siku was born here
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in late november. within hours, it was clear there was a problem. siku's mother had lost two previous cubs because she couldn't produce milk. this time, park staff were ready. they tranquilized ilka and removed a frightened polar bear from her den. it was simply a mission to save the baby bear. but when these staggeringly sweet pictures landed on the internet, siku became an overnight celebrity around the world. did you know he was going to become so famous so fast? >> it surprised us a lot that he became such a media darling. >> reporter: not surprising at all. remember knut? >> knut. >> knut. >> reporter: another celebrity baby bear, born in berlin in 2006. he was rejected by his mother and raised by zoo keepers. knut mania spanned the globe. toys, and tv, and a huge surge in attendance at the berlin zoo.
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knut died last year. frank is determined not to let siku become another knut. what was the mistake with knut? >> it there was a mistake, it was that he was only a cute polar bear. he was not used as a messenger for the environment. >> reporter: so, frank has turned down toys and hollywood films. but he has accepted help from two american foundations, so siku can become an ambassador for polar bears in the wild. polar bears are the first to become endangered because of global warming. >> polar bears catch their food from the sea ice. if the sea ice disappears, the polar bears will die of starvation. that's happening right now, rapidly. >> reporter: siku is oblivious, focused on his next meal. and focused on getting on those paws and walking. and he will get big. that's his father, one of four adult polar bears here at the
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scandinavian wildlife park. he weighs in at 1,100 pounds and stands 10 feet tall. and there is ilka, siku's mother. unaware that her little cub has survived and thrived. eventually siku will join the big bears. but for now, he sleeps with his keepers and his stuffed polar bear. temper there. blissfully unaware of his fame. and before we leave siku, we have some breaking news. just a day after we visited with him, siku got up on his feet and took his first steps in the snow. i'm jeffrey kofman, for "nightline," in orhus, denmark. >> that's one, cute bear. if you want to see siku up close and personal, there are live web cams at thanks for watching abc news. tomorrow on "good morning america," an exclusive interview with gabe watson, vindicated in the so-called honeymoon killer case.